|Bernard Baggs, who turned a ragtag
high school marching band into an institution worthy of Macy's Thanksgiving
Day Parade, died. (December 5, 1998) He was 78 years old.
Mr. Baggs left a teaching post in Weehawken in 1950 to become music director at Bergenfield High School, where 28 young musicians were the halftime entertainment at football games and homecomings.
Fifteen years later, when he left the music program to become a principal, Bergenfield had earned a reputation as an elite "marching 100" Band. The music department swelled to 17 teachers, from three. And all around town, Mr Baggs came to be called "The Music Man."
"By participating in music," Mr. Baggs told The Record in 1982, "people realize that they can do many, many things that are just naturally part of their talents, not only musically, but in the way of leadership, responsibility, and being creative."
He added: "Music, everyone knows, is a universal language, but it's more than that. It's an introduction to spirituality."
Mr. Baggs career had distinction at every turn. He took his 28 musicians and taught them to memorize the music and to break from box-drill formations, so judges would sit up and notice. By 1953, Mr. Baggs was overseeing 80 uniformed marchers on the field at Yankee Stadium. Two years later, they were strutting along Fifth Avenue in the Macy's parade- and wowing the crowds, as they done just about every year since.
Mr. Baggs went on to create the "marching 100" band, plus a 100 piece symphony orchestra. The band was the lead musical group for the televised opening of the 1964 New York World's Fair. Every year, it marched at halftime of a Jets or Giants football game.
But Mr. Baggs' work went well beyond getting the
twirlers in sync and the high steps just so. He was busy judging
drum corps contests and band competitions all over the country.
He also established the Bergenfield Adult School.
In 1965, Mr. Baggs became the principal of Row W. Brown Middle School, from which he retired in 1983.
Mr. Baggs earned a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's in educational administration from New York University. He received a doctorate in educataional administration and music from Columbia University.
He was an army veteran who achieved the rank of
chief warrant officer.
Survivors include his wife, Lauretta, a son, Bernard Jr. of Andover, six daughters, Bonnie Egan of Glen Rock, Kathie Perino of New Milford, Joan Penney of Whitehouse Station, Mary Rower of Brick, Pattie Taylor of Corvallis, Ore., and Lourie Christonikos of New City, NY: 16 grandchildren a 5 great grandchildren.
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